Canning Tomatoes: Pressure Canning or Water Bath.

This page may contain affiliate links. More Information.

Canning tomatoes comes with a lot of questions: For starters, do tomatoes need to be pressure canned? Can you process tomatoes in a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner?

The good news is… Pressure Canning and Water Bath Canning are both suitable for Tomatoes.

This post includes directions for both water bath canning and pressure canning tomatoes.

Open quart canning jars filled with tomatoes.
Canning Basics Course to learn how to can fruit, veggies, and tomatoes.

Know your Canner

Before you start this project, please be familiar with using your canner. This recipe includes directions for both water bath and pressure canning.

  • Choose what canning method you will follow.
  • Read through the canner specifics at one of the links below.
  • Then come back here and get tomato specific directions.

These posts will familiarize you with how a canner works and what steps to take to get set up for any canning project.

Pressure Canning / How to use a pressure canner.

Water Bath Canning / How to use a water bath canner.

What is Raw Pack

The recipe below is for a raw pack. This simply means you’ll pack the tomatoes in the jars raw. It does NOT mean you don’t have to process. You do have to process your tomates.

The tomatoes go in the jars raw. And then you will process the jars in either a water bath canner OR a pressure canner.

If you want to use a hot packing method check out canning tomato sauce. Because if you cook them first they’ll get saucy.

Canning Tomatoes: Expert Tips and Step by Step Directions

Gather Canning Supplies for Canning Tomatoes:


  • tomatoes – I’m using Roma tomatoes on this page, but other varieties work as well.
  • canning salt (optional)
  • lemon juice (or citric acid)

Start by preparing your jars and getting water in your canner heating. See the canner specific directions linked above.

How to Blanch and Peel Tomatoes for Canning

Blanching simply means you’ll dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds and then cool them quickly. The skins will slip off easily in your hands.

In these pictures, I am working with Roma tomatoes. I like them for canning because they are meatier than other tomatoes. They are smaller and I can fit more in the blancher at one time. But you might want to only blanch 4-6 tomatoes at a time. It all depends on the size of the tomato.

Start with your water at a rapid boil. When you add your tomatoes the water will likely stop boiling. You want it to come back to a boil fairly quickly. Within a minute or so is good. If it doesn’t then just put in less tomatoes next time. It’s ok… it might just take longer for the tomatoes to split.

Leave the tomatoes in the water for approximately 30-60 seconds. Start counting right away you don’t have to wait for the water to come back to a boil. Watch the tomato…. you will likely see the skins split.

A blancher basket of tomatoes sitting a pot of boiling water.

When you see them splitting they are done. This could happen quickly (even before the water comes to a boil) or it might take 60 seconds or so. This will depend on the temperature of the water, and the ripeness of the tomatoes. The riper they are the quicker the process works.

Occasionally you won’t see the skins split. But you don’t want to leave them so long the whole tomato gets cooked through. The goal is to just cook the outside skins so they loosen. If you don’t see them split go ahead and remove them at 60 seconds and check. Pull them out, allow them to cool so you can handle them (putting them into ice cold water helps) then just tug at the skin a bit. It should slip right off very easily.

Lifting a handful of peeling tomatoes from a pot of water.

Less ripe tomatoes will generally take a little longer than ripe tomatoes. And if you’ve got tomatoes that are mostly ripe but have green areas on them the green areas might need a little encouragement with a knife. It’s all good.

Starting with nice ripe tomatoes is ideal and makes this step easiest.

Blanching Basket Options

  • But you can also just keep it simple and use a slotted spoon and pot of boiling water.

A Blanching Question

I was asked this question and it is a good one. “After putting the tomatoes in boiling water so the skins split, then into ice cold water to stop them from cooking, won’t the tomatoes be cold when I put them in the hot jars? Can this cause my jars to break?”

Yes. The jars do cool down when you add the tomatoes. They won’t be cold though. They might be sort of lukewarm or even end up at room temperature. That is why you want the water in your canner hot, but not boiling hot. It can be a bit hotter than your jars; canning jars are pretty sturdy but don’t have a drastic difference in temperature. Great question.

Raw Packing Tomatoes

After you slip the skins off, quarter tomatoes with a paring knife. I do this one by one and put them right in the jars (I add lemon juice to the jars first, see the next section for details.)

So, these are the steps.

  • Blanch and Cool Tomatoes
  • Pull each tomato out of the cooling water, remove the skins, cut if needed and put right into prepared jars.

I say cut into quarters but again it depends on the size of your tomatoes. The Roma tomatoes you see in the pictures above, I just put them in the jars peeled and whole, if you’ve got large tomatoes you’ll want to cut them up.

Add Lemon Juice and Salt to the Canning Jars.

You’ll need to add lemon juice (or some sort of acidification) and salt to each jar of tomatoes. You can do this before or after you add the tomatoes.

It is easier if you do it before. If you forget and have a jar with tomatoes already, no big deal just remove a spoonful of tomatoes if needed so the lemon juice won’t mess with the 1/2 inch headspace required. (I’ll talk about headspace below too!)

I know I’ll get this question so …. Yes, you should add acidification. This bumps the ph levels and makes them high acid enough for home canning. It doesn’t matter if you use a water bath or pressure canner.

These recipes and processing times were tested for tomatoes with added acidity. Don’t skip this.

Add bottled lemon juice to the jars: Use 2 Tablespoons lemon juice per quart or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice per pint.

Note: There are other ways of adding acid to your tomatoes. Sometimes people say they don’t like the flavor of the lemon juice. I’ve never noticed a taste at all. Lemon juice is my choice but you might want to look at this page – How to Can Tomatoes Safely /. The Lemon Juice Debate for some other options.

Add Salt to your jars when you add the lemon juice. The good news is, salt is actually optional. I highly recommend it as it does add nice flavor, but if you need low sodium you can reduce or eliminate salt.

If desired, also add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart jar or 1/2 tsp. salt per pint to the jars, if desired.

Back to Packing the Tomatoes

As you skin the tomatoes, slice them in halves or quarters, whatever you you prefer. (I will sometimes even leave my Roma tomatoes whole.) Place them directly into your jars.

Your jars should be warm when you are working with your tomatoes. I’ll usually just have them in my canner warming up. You can also run a dishwasher rinse cycle with the jars and then leave them in the steamy dishwasher until you are ready to fill each one. Learn why sterilizing jars isn’t required.

Pressing tomatoes down into quart canning jars.

Press down on the tomatoes in the jar until spaces between them fill with juice. This will crush them slightly. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.

Repeat steps until all tomatoes are skinned and chopped. You may need to let your water come back to heat in between batches in the blancher.

Using an orange peeler to release bubbles from a jar of tomatoes.

Remove air bubbles with a small utensil–I find an orange peeler works great for this step. But they do sell bubble tools for the job as well.

Be sure and wipe the rims of your jars clean before placing your lids on. If there are bits of food, it may interfere with the seal. Place lids and screw bands on the jars and place in the canner on a rack. Process according to Water Bath or Pressure Canning Instructions.

Remember how your jars were hot when you filled them? They will most likely cool when you add the tomatoes, thus you should have the water in your canner warm/hot, but not boiling. You don’t want a drastic change in temperature. Canning jars are pretty sturdy, so they will handle some temperature change…but I’d still not risk placing cool or even room temperature jars in boiling water.

So in short, have the canner water hot, but not boiling hot, when you fill it with the jars.

Don’t Add Water to the Jars

Keep in mind these are raw packed tomatoes in their own juice. You should not add water to your jars. If you add water, you change the acidity and there are different processing instructions in those circumstances.

Tomato solids floating on top of tomato liquid in the jars.

Also, keep in mind that these tomatoes may float (like in the picture above). It is just a fact of this method of canning. Tomatoes will end up at the top of the jars after processing with more liquid at the bottom.

I’ve got some tips on how to avoid floating when canning tomatoes here.

It is prettier to make a tomato sauce, but this style of raw packed whole tomatoes has its place in many of my recipes, so I always do a bunch like this. With the raw pack style, you can even pull out the tomatoes in the middle of winter to put on a salad. Definitely mushier than fresh, but they still hold together well enough.

Processing Directions for Canning Tomatoes

Processing for a Pressure Canner

Process both pints or quarts for 25 minutes.

Processing for a Water Bath Canner

Process both pints or quarts 85 minutes.

(Be sure to adjust processing according to your altitude, using charts below. For more information, see this altitude adjustments page.)

Canning Tomatoes Tips & FAQs

Do You Have to Add Lemon Juice When Canning Tomatoes?

Yes. Please do add lemon juice or some sort of acidification to your home-canned tomatoes. It all has to do with the acidity. For more information on why acidifying your tomatoes is important, please read Canning Tomatoes Safely. Get the answers to do you really need lemon juice/citric acid? What’s the big deal, anyway?

How do you freeze tomatoes?

I explain how to can tomatoes in this article, but another option is to freeze your tomatoes prior to canning them. When you thaw them out, the skins slip right off. Check out this page for more information. Information about freezing tomatoes can be found here.

There are air bubbles in my jars of tomatoes? Are they safe?

This is probably normal. If the bubbles are small and not moving like they are fermenting then it is fine. If you have movement in the jar then it is possible you’ve got spoilage happening.

After putting the tomatoes in boiling water so the skins split, then into ice cold water to stop them from cooking, won’t the tomatoes be cold when I put them in the hot jars? Can this cause my jars to break?

Yes, you are right. The jars do cool down when you add the tomatoes. They won’t be cold though. They might be sort of lukewarm or even end up at room temperature. That is why you want the water in your canner hot, but not boiling hot. It can be a bit hotter than your jars; canning jars are pretty sturdy but don’t have a drastic difference in temperature. Great question.

Do tomatoes need a water bath?

You really do need to process your jars of tomatoes but it doesn’t have to be a water bath. It can also be in a pressure canner. You should not do what is sometimes called “open kettle canning”. You can read more about open kettle canning here.

What can I do with home-canned tomatoes?

Oh goodness! Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce are basic in any pantry. It can be used as a base for soup or stews. You can make and can salsa but you can also open a jar of home-canned tomatoes add vinegar, peppers, onions, garlic, etc and make fresh salsa from it.

How do you can cherry tomatoes?

Just like regular-sized tomatoes. :). The trick is the peeling step. You can’t skip it. You’d be surprised how easily cherry tomatoes peel though. Be sure and watch close they don’t need to be blanched as long.

How long to water bath tomatoes.

This will depend on what recipe you are using. Are you adding water? Are you canning whole or sauce? For this page we are packing tomatoes cut with no added water. Just in it’s own juice. Process both pints or quarts 85 minutes. (don’t forget the acidification!)

Other Tomato Posts and Recipes

Canning Tomatoes Index – many recipes here.

How to adapt your own homemade salsa recipe for canning purposes.

Tips for Home Canning Tomatoes

Dehydrating Tomatoes is another great option

Recipe Card

Canning Tomatoes Raw Pack

Here's the recipe for canning tomatoes in a raw pack, meaning you don’t cook the tomatoes first. They go in the jars raw.
Print Recipe
Open quart canning jars filled with tomatoes.
Prep Time:1 hour
Processing Quarts (adjust for altitude):25 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 25 minutes



  • Start by preparing jars and getting water in the canner heating. You want the canner hot, but not boiling, when the jars are ready to be processed.
    If you are new to using a pressure canner, see this article for full pressure canning instructions. This includes more detailed information and step-by-step instructions on how a pressure canner works.
    See full water bath canning instructions here.  

Raw Pack only

  • Peel tomatoes.
  • Halve or quarter tomatoes. (You can leave small or roma tomatoes whole.)  
  • Add lemon juice to hot jar, 2 Tbsp. per quart or 1 Tbsp. per pint. (For citric acid, use 1/2 tsp. per quart or 1/4 tsp. per pint instead of the lemon juice.) If desired, add canning salt (1 tsp. per quart or 1/2 tsp. per pint). 
  • Pack tomatoes into jar, pressing down to fill space with juice. 
  • Leave 1/2” headspace. 
  • Remove air bubbles, wipe the rim clean, and place seal and ring. Place jar in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars. Process according to directions below. 


Processing with a Water Bath Canner
Place the jar in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars placing them in the canner.
When all the jars are filled, bring the water in the canner to a boil.  When a boil is reached that is when you’ll start your timing.   Process for the length of time on the chart below.  Adjust for your altitude. 
 After your time is over, turn the heat off remove the lid and allow the canner to rest for about 5 minutes. Then bring your jars up out of the water.  Allow them to rest for another 5 minutes. Then remove the jars and place them a few inches apart on a thick towel to cool completely.  Leave them alone for about 12 hours.  
When they are cooled remove the metal bands, check the seals, label the jars and store them away! 
Processing with a Pressure Canner
Place the jars in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars placing them in the prepared hot canner. 
Put the lid on the canner leaving the weights off.  Bring to a boil. Watch for the steam to start coming out the vent pipe in the lid.
Allow the steam to ‘vent’ for 10 minutes then put the weights on. Use the proper weight for your altitude (check the chart below) This is when pressure will start to build.  
When the pressure reaches the pressure required for your altitude (check the chart below) that is when you’ll start your time.  Process for the full time indicated, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the correct pressure for the entire time.
When processing time is completed turn off the heat. Do not remove weights yet. Let the canner sit undisturbed until pressure comes back to zero. Do not try to speed up the cooling process.
Remove the weight and wait 5 minutes.
Open the lid to allow steam to escape. (carefully don’t let it hit your face or arms!) Leave the lid setting on top of the canner slightly ajar and wait 5 minutes.
Take the lid off the canner and remove your jars. (optionally you can wait another 5 minutes if the contents appear to be bubbling so hard it is coming out of the jars)
Put the jars a few inches apart on a thick towel and allow them to cool to room temperature undisturbed. 12 hours is suggested.
When the jars are cool, remove the metal bands, check the seals, and store the jars in a cool dark place.
Processing Instructions for Water Bath Canner 
Processing Times for Water Bath Canner (Raw Pack)  
Altitude – Pints and Quarts are Processed the Same 
0-1,000 ft – 85 minutes 
1,001-3,000 ft – 90 minutes 
3,001-6,000 ft – 95 minutes 
Above 6,000 ft – 100 minutes  
Processing Instructions for Pressure Canner 
Process pints or quarts 25 minutes, adjusting for altitude. 
Processing Times for Pressure Canner (Raw Pack) 
Altitude – Dial Gauge  
0-2,000 ft – 11 pounds 
2,001 – 4,000 ft – 12 pounds 
4,001 – 6,000 ft – 13 pounds 
6,001 – 8,000 ft – 14 pounds 
Altitude – Weighted Gauge 
0-1,000 ft – 10 pounds 
1,001 – 8,000 ft – 15 pounds 
Adapted from: The National Center for Home Food Preservation 
Servings: 9 pint jars
Canning Tomatoes

Source: The National Center for Home Food Preservation

Expand Your Pantry

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Laura Hahn
Laura Hahn
1 year ago

Is doing a raw pack of tomatoes similar to making diced tomatoes? Tomatoes don’t grow super well in my area but not impossible so I would have to likely buy them in bulk to make all of the tomato products I like to use-diced, sauce, paste, and crushed. I’m trying to make a list of foods I want to can and gathering recipes for them so I can get started-and then figure out where I am going to put it all lol and is 1 pint equivalent to a 15oz can from the store?

2 years ago

you don’t mention the amountof water needed in the canner. Do you put the jars in and then cover them with water or do you only fill to the metal ring?

Last edited 2 years ago by Donna
Suzzanne Mendenhall
Suzzanne Mendenhall
2 years ago

5 stars
First time ever canning tomatoes. I just started canning this year, after deciding I wanted to branch out my garden to food along with flowers.

I’m pretty excited. A lot easier than I thought it would be.

PS. LOVED THE SCRIPTURE at the end of this page.

John Gabriel Otvos
John Gabriel Otvos
2 years ago

I’ve been canning tomatoes for years without removing the skins. Why? Because that part, like all fruit is where the majority of the vitamin C is. Just remove the stem and any blems. Toss ’em into a food processor and blend. Fill hot cleaned jars and can as per usual; no need for added salt. Folks outta learn how food tastes without added SOS, i.e., added salt/oil/sugar. Add a touch of citric acid depending on the size of the jar. ‘Tis unlikely humans will survive as a civilization continuing to do things the same way we’ve always have. This is… Read more »

Maggie Turner
Maggie Turner
2 years ago

I have canned tomatoes without removing the skins, with excellent results. This practise was not tested as the skins can be undesirable to consume,. With domestic kitchens able to use food processors to break the skins down into small pieces, it has become aesthetically feasible to include the skins when canning tomatoes. Tomato skins have good nutritional value. Personally, since items like cherries have been tested and can be canned safely with the skins on, it seems unlikely that tomatoes would be all that different. Since we can bushels and bushels of tomatoes, we are going to start using a… Read more »

2 years ago

5 stars
What do I do with the water, in the raw method, when ready to use the tomatoes? Thanks for the video, I’ve got a ton of tomatoes this year!

Last edited 2 years ago by Andy
Rachel Abernathy
Rachel Abernathy
2 years ago
Reply to  Andy

Do you mean the liquid in the jars of tomatoes? It really just depends on how you’re using the end product. You could drain it off, reserving the liquid to add to soup or something like that. Or if you’re making sauce, you might just blend the tomatoes with the juice, etc. It just depends. 🙂

-Rachel (Sharon’s assistant)

Roberta C Sallee
Roberta C Sallee
3 years ago

Can I pour off some of the tomato juices before canning?